Minimum Wage Momentum

by Secretary Tom Perez on December 4, 2013 · 4 comments

Tomorrow, in 100 cities nationwide, fast-food workers are speaking out and taking action.  Their message is simple: they want a wage that allows them to raise their families without living in poverty.

I’ve met with these workers. I’ve looked into their eyes and seen their pride and their dignity, but also their distress and anxiety. “I worked there for 16 years,” one woman said of her employer. “I raised my children doing this. And now I find myself homeless and just trying to get back on my feet.” One man asked: “Why are we working full-time and have to apply for food stamps?” Another spoke of coming to work despite burn marks on his arm, the flu and a sprained tendon in his elbow: “I can’t afford to take off work,” he said. “I can’t miss any days.”

Minimum wage quotesAround the country, these voices are resonating. We see momentum gathering and a consensus emerging around the idea that we need to increase the federal minimum wage, to give these workers and millions like them a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.  You can’t open the newspaper or check the Internet without seeing stories about workers struggling to get by and making the case for higher pay.

Congress needs to respond to the organic grass-roots energy that continues to build. A recent Gallup poll revealed that more than three-quarters of Americans support a minimum wage increase. Cities, states and localities have begun taking matters into their own hands and raising the minimum wage in their jurisdictions.  In Montgomery County, Md., where I live, a dramatic minimum wage increase will be signed into law tomorrow. Neighboring Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia are poised to do the same.

In last month’s elections, the city of SeaTac, Wash., took the extraordinary step of ratifying a $15 per hour wage floor. And in New Jersey, while the re-election of Gov. Chris Christie generated most of the media buzz, the ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage actually got a higher percentage of the vote than did the governor.

President Obama has made a minimum wage increase a focal point of his economic agenda. In a speech on economic mobility earlier today, he said: “We know that there are airport workers, fast-food workers, nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty. That’s why it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.”

The president sees this as smart economic policy that strengthens all of us. Consumer demand is the lifeblood of our economy, accounting for 70 percent of GDP. When you put more money in the pockets of working families, they spend it on groceries, gas, school supplies, and other goods and services. And that helps businesses grow and create jobs.

So many forward-looking employers, large and small, understand this. I’ve talked to several CEOs – from a recycling company in Indiana, a furniture company in Kentucky, a brewing company in Colorado and more – who believe paying higher wages is both the right thing to do and part of a successful business model.

To reward work, to grow the middle class and strengthen the economy, to give millions of Americans the respect they deserve … it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mel Smith December 5, 2013 at 9:50 am

Why is the government involved in any of this? Why? Why? Why? The economy will fix itself if the government would just get out of the way!!!!

2 Mel Smith December 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

Why is the government telling private business how to operate???? Why? Why? Why? If the government would just stay out of the private business industry, the economy would right itself without intervention!!!

3 Randy Williams December 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I agree that it’s difficult to make it on minimum wage. I’ve worked fast food jobs. I currently work for near minimum wage in MoCo, MD. However, I’ll be going to grad school before the wage hike takes effect.

I agree that it is too hard for fast food workers to earn a living. However, I don’t know that a min wage hike is the answer and I’d like to see the economics behind this logic. Why not raise the minimum wage to a thousand dollars an hour? We could all be millionaires then, but of course, a million dollars wouldn’t be worth so much then. Everything would cost over a hundred times what it costs today, inflation would cripple the economy, etc. I’m not saying I’m opposed to a wage hike, but I think the people supporting it are looking at it from a very simplistic standpoint. I’ll support it when the math is there to say it works.

4 Mo Athari December 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Low minimum wage is corporate welfare because we are subsidizing with food stamps and housing. The more money that is injected into the bottom, the more it bubbles up which eliminates unemployment, grows GDP and creates tax revenue and as it becomes stagnant accumulating at the top, it is collected back (death tax) and re-infused. Living wages create higher pay in skilled jobs (social mobility) and moderate inflation which devalues currency, slowly eliminating debt (1950 debt was 320B GDP 320B – Today debt is 17T GDP 17T).

Unions are ineffective because they rely on market force. The most efficient way to provide worker protections is legislating living wages, overtime pay, mandatory time off, universal health care, and social security.

Flat tax is a hoax. Rich people (1M a year or more) use our infrastructure to become rich. They should pay a 50% tax rate because they used our resources to get rich.

Corporations are not people. They must pay taxes as a cost of doing business, not get too big to fail (monopolies) and public utilities and insurance companies should be heavily regulated and have public representation on their boards.

Government is not inept but a reflection of its people and invests in infrastructure, provides health care, defense, social security, energy, safe environment, housing, food, grievances, and most importantly regulates MONEY.

In order for capitalism and free trade to work, the US must have a strong middle class to buy products which multinationals wish to have developed in other countries so they become invested in our MONEY (gold of the world). Latest data shows the opposite and this trend must be immediately and swiftly corrected:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTj9AcwkaKM

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